Discrimination Alleged in Deaf Woman’s DWI Case

A 32-year-old New Jersey woman continues to have legal troubles after refusing a breath test more than two years ago. The Maywood resident was arrested after someone reported seeing a “drunk person” entering a vehicle at a local bar. The woman’s case is complicated by the fact that she is deaf, and no American Sign Language interpreter was provided when she was arrested.

A judge placed a seven-month suspension on the woman’s driver’s license, and she was ordered to pay fines and other costs totaling $1,053. However, her attorney argued that police discriminated against the woman by failing to provide an interpreter to explain the possible consequences of refusing a breath test.

After the first judge’s ruling, the case went to the Superior Court, where the woman’s attorney noted that interpreters are available 24 hours a day through electronic devices such as cell phones. The attorney said that police discriminated against the woman because interpreters are provided under other similar circumstances.

The Superior Court judge was not swayed, however. She affirmed the lower court’s ruling and referred to evidence showing that the accused woman understood English. The judge also ruled that police had probable cause to conduct a traffic stop.

It remains to be seen whether the woman’s attorney will appeal the Superior Court ruling.

Source: Nj.com, “Judge: Police didn’t need sign language interpreter for deaf DUI suspect,” Ben Horowitz, June 4, 2014